Mukhtar Mohammed spent much of the winter watching Mo Farah run off into the distance.
The improving middle-distance runner from Sheffield joined Britain’s superstar endurance athlete at his annual training camp in Kenya, as the multi-garlanded Farah prepares to add the marathon to the list of events he has conquered.
It meant long days in the scorching sun chasing the shadow of the double Olympic champion and three-time world’s best over 5,000m and 10,000m.
“He kept dropping me after about 25 minutes,” laughs Mohammed, whose ambitions for his own global domination are in the tentative stages of planning.
“By that time I’m normally absolutely shattered – and he’s only warming up.
“He’s so good to be around because you see how talented he is and also how focused he is and how much hard work he puts in.”
As an 800m runner, Mohammed is not expected to keep pace with Farah. Yet the time he spent in East Africa with Britain’s prince of athletics proved invaluable as he prepares for the next chapter in his own career.
This weekend Mohammed bids for glory at the world indoor championships in Sopot, Poland, the biennial culmination of the winter indoor season.
It is the biggest championship of the 23-year-old’s career, and therefore should be enough to keep him on edge throughout the whole weekend.
However, having spent time this winter picking the brains of long-distance running’s force of nature, Mohammed has been imbued with a fresh perspective.
“He’s very good at giving advice and, fortunately, he’s given me plenty,” says Mohammed of his fellow Somali-born runner.
“He told me about how he prepared when he was my age, for instance.
“But the best bit of advice he gave me was to not think about the smaller picture, but to always think about the big picture.
“He said it’s not enough to want to be the best in Britain and Europe, you aim to be the best in the world’.
“It’s great advice and I’m applying it this year.”
With the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games to come this summer, this weekend’s world indoors, while important in their own right, are nothing more than a stepping stone for the bigger prizes on offer this summer.
Mohammed arrived in Poland for today’s 800m heats with Farah’s words ringing in his ears.
“The main goal for me is the Games and the European Championships, it has to be,” says Mohammed, who at the European indoors in Gothenburg last year, claimed his first major international medal when he won bronze.
“It’s an important year for me, starting with what will be a really top-class field in Sopot and a really good test for me in all aspects.
“Tactically it will be a really good test for me having got it wrong in the national championships in Sheffield.
“But since then I’ve prepared well and put a lot of focus on this event. Hopefully, it sets me up nicely for the big championships of the summer.”
Joining Mohammed in Britain’s 34-strong squad over the next three days is Barnsley pole vaulter Luke Cutts, Sheffield’s 1,500m runner Lee Emanuel and York sprinter Richard Buck.
Cutts broke the British record earlier this year to prove that, on his day, he can challenge for the medals.
Emanuel is making his debut at a major championships after winning the national title at the English Institute of Sport a month ago.
Buck is at the opposite end of the spectrum to his three Yorkshire team-mates, having won six medals at major indoor meets.
Two of those have come in the individual 400m, the heats of which the 27-year-old contests this morning.
Four have come in the 4x400m relay, with one of those the gold the team won last year in Gothenburg.
But the team that will be led by Nigel Levine has yet to win the global title, having won bronze in 2010 and silver two years later.
“To get to the final of the individual would be a great achievement,” says Buck, who was selected as part of Britain’s 4x400m relay team for the London 2012 Olympics but did not run.
“I would love to challenge for a medal. My times aren’t out of touch with everyone.
“In the relay we’ve been growing in strength over the past couple of years. We were so close to taking gold at the last worlds and we are the reigning European champions. While it would be great to come away with a medal, there is a lot of expectation among ourselves.”